Two giants of farmworker history will visit Fresno State Wednesday, March 30, for the University’s three-day 20th annual Cesar E. Chavez Garlanding Ceremony and Celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 340-mile United Farm Workers Perenigracion (pilgrimage) from Delano to Sacramento that included a visit to the Fresno State campus today five decades ago:
- Paul F. Chavez, son of Chavez who is now president and chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation;
- Dr. Alex S. Fabros Jr., a Filipino community activist and historian who was involved in farmworker labor strikes in the 1960s pre-dating the UFW.
The César Chávez Day of Service and Learning is a state holiday celebrated on the UFW founder’s birthday — March 31. The campus will join other state agencies that will be closed Thursday in observance of the holiday.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the installation of the Chavez monument in the Peace Garden on campus and the garlanding ceremony which will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the monument. Paul Chavez speaks at about 12:30 p.m. followed by Fabros.
The first day of the celebration kicks off with a blood drive from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, March 28, organized by the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) in the Free Speech Area north of the Henry Madden Library. The first 100 blood donors will receive a commemorative Chavez t-shirt and a Yogurtland sample.
Also, two documentaries about farmworkers will be screened in the University Business Center, room 191 followed by panel discussions:
- “Delano Manongs” will be shown from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday (March 28) with a discussion about the Filipino farmworkers’ role in the strike and union. The Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, led by Larry Itliong, initiated the 1965 strike and joined forces with Chavez’s National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) to create the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (UFWOC).
- “Cesar’s Last Fast” will screen from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday (March 29), and depicts how Chavez risked his life with a hunger fast to champion the farmworkers cause.
A photo display on the second floor of the Henry Madden Library March 28-April 1 documents the 50 years since the farmworker union’s famous grape strike in the fall of 1965 and the ensuing national grape boycott in their quest to gain contracts with better pay and improved working conditions. (See full schedule).
That cause was reinforced by the 25-day march from Delano to Sacramento that began March 17, 1966 with 70 striking farmworkers and ended on the steps of the state’s capitol April 11 with more than 10,000 supporters rallying with them.
As the pilgrimage paused in Fresno March 24, 1966, the marchers stopped for a rally at the Azteca Theater in West Fresno where Chavez addressed supporters.
On Friday, March 25, 1966, UFW representative Luis Valdez, founder of the union’s street theatre troupe El Teatro Campesino, came to then-Fresno State College to talk to students about the march. Amidst anti-UFW protestors, Valdez spoke in the Free Speech Area, just a few feet away from where next week’s celebration will be held.
Chávez and the UFW received strong Fresno State student support the past five decades in the union’s campaign to improve conditions for farmworkers and open doors to higher education for their children.
And for the past 20 years, the Fresno State community has honored Chavez and the farmworker movements with the garlanding ceremony led by Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, professor emeritus of Social Work, and longtime friend of Chavez. Kapoor helped establish the Peace Garden, which also includes monuments to Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jane Addams. Chavez visited the campus in 1975. He died peacefully in his sleep on April 23, 1993 near Yuma, Arizona at age 66.
The 9-foot-high bronze sculpture of Chavez, installed March 31, 1996, was designed and created by Paul Suarez of Roseville and sits as the east anchor to the four monuments now standing in the Peace Garden.
The campus celebrations the past two decades have featured speakers ranging from UFW co-founders Dolores Huerta, a longtime vice president, and Richard Chavez, the late brother of Cesar, as well as his children and grandchildren.
This year’s speaker makes his second visit to the celebration. The Cesar Chavez Foundation Paul Chavez leads continues the work of his father to improve the lives of working families.
Fabros will discuss the role of Filipinos in the farmworkers labor movement historically and leaders like Itliong, who organized a group of 1,500 Filipinos to strike against the grape growers of Delano in 1965 and uniting Filipinos, Chicanos and other ethnic workers. A veteran of the US Army and Marines, Fabros is a retired major and a 100 percent combat disabled veteran. He earned a PhD in farm labor history and has taught Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University.
“Many people are not aware the role the Filipino farmworkers played in the UFW’s 50 year campaign for justice in the fields,” said Ofelia Gamez, coordinator of the Latino/a Programs and Services in the Cross Cultural and Gender Center, and organizer of the event along with the Latina/o Faculty Staff Association and several campus programs and student organizations.
“Since the farmworker union fight has involved primarily Latinos led by Chavez, Dolores Huerta and many others, they have been in the spotlight all these years,” Gamez said. “We hope to help bring attention to the fact that our Filipino brothers and sisters not only were a part of it, but were at the forefront from the beginning and their efforts to unite with Mexican farmworkers in the 1960s was a major step in the many gains farmworkers have seen the past 50 years.”
The Chavez Day celebration this year will feature performances by the University’s Mexican folkloric dance troupe, Los Danzantes de Aztlán and farmworker movement music performed by Phil Gonzales, a Chicano and Latin American Studies professor, and Stanley Lucero. Paletas and pan dulce (ice cream popsicles and sweet bread) will be available.
University President Joseph I. Castro will present the official welcome. He will be joined by Dr. Frank Llamas, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and Ofelia Gamez, who is also director of the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).
For more information, contact Gamez at 559.278.4768 or firstname.lastname@example.org.